Malaysia 5G controversy flares again over PM's Huawei remarks

PM Ibrahim rebuked after suggesting 5G network contract could be awarded to Huawei without tender.

Robert Clark, Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

October 9, 2023

2 Min Read
A man's hand holding a smartphone in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, with a view of the city in the background.
(Source: Davidovich Mikhail/Alamy Stock Photo)

Just when Malaysia looked set to have settled its 5G arrangements, a new controversy has flared up around the possible role of Huawei.
It's not because of the security concerns that western governments have warned about. Instead, it's over comments by the prime minister which suggest he is willing to award the contract directly to the Chinese firm.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim told a Huawei event in Kuala Lumpur two weeks ago that the decision to allow a second wholesale 5G network would allow "for more effective participation by Huawei."

He argued the construction of a second 5G network was made so that Malaysia could benefit from different technologies. "We in Malaysia, and I believe rightly, decided that while we get the best from the West, we also should benefit the best from the East,” he said.

Professor Ong Kian Ming, a politics professor and former deputy trade and industry minister, said he was "somewhat taken aback" by the remarks. If there were a need for a second network, the contract should be awarded via an open tender and not by directly negotiating with any single entity, he said in a statement.

Review of Ericsson contract

He pointed out that one of Anwar's first acts as prime minister last year was to order a review into the awarding of the original 5G network contract by government-backed Digital Nasional Berhard (DNB) to Ericsson. It found no impropriety.

“It would be a disservice to the Madani way of governing if the second 5G network was awarded in a manner where only one bidder was involved,” Ong wrote, referring to Ibrahim's slogan of good governance and core values.

He also argues that the case for a second 5G network has not been firmly established, pointing to the rapid rollout of the DNB network, and that the mobile operators have not yet formally signed their agreement to take shareholder stakes in DNB.

According to Communications and Digital Minister Fahmi Fadzil, DNB network coverage passed the 70% mark at the end of September.

He told the parliament Monday that DNB has so far deployed 2,373 5G basestations this year and was on track to complete 3,500, the same number as 2022.

The government has committed to allowing the construction of a second wholesale network once the DNB network reaches 80% coverage. The six network operators have clocked up 2.49 million 5G subscribers, or 7.4% of the national total, Fadzil said.

Read more about:


About the Author(s)

Robert Clark

Contributing Editor, Special to Light Reading

Robert Clark is an independent technology editor and researcher based in Hong Kong. In addition to contributing to Light Reading, he also has his own blog,  Electric Speech ( 

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like